Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cake Boss

Every Thursday there is a farmer’s market across the street from my office building.
There is an array of fruit, vegetable and flower vendors, as well as ethnic eateries.
Every Thursday for the past 4 years of working at my company my boss purchases his weekly cupcake from the Blue Cupcake stand.

I agree with my boss, that Blue Cupcake makes the best cupcakes I have ever tasted! Her creations and flavors out weigh those of the mogul cupcake shops, such as Crumbs and Sprinkles! (sorry guys!)
My boss takes his Blue Cupcake Thursday’s very seriously; if he is not here on a Thursday either I or my other co-workers are required to pick up his favorite cupcake for him, so he may have it upon his return! His favorite is their strawberry cupcake.
Last year for his birthday the office pitched in and had Julie (the owner) of Blue Cupcake make my boss a giant strawberry cake!
This year however, since I have taken up baking as a hobby, and sadly enough, Blue Cupcake is moving to Colorado (my boss is so distraught!) I took it upon myself to bake him my own special creation for his birthday cake.
I don’t think I will ever try to imitate the cake of this decadent strawberry cupcake. It is just too moist and perfect, and I know anything I ever attempt to make or try, will be a disappointment.
Therefore, knowing that he loves the light texture and flavor of her cake - I decided to make a light fluffy lemon cake and incorporate a strawberry buttercream frosting!

I adapted a lemon cake from a lemon layer cake with lemon cream frosting from the blog: The Virtual Goody Plate…and created the strawberry frosting, using a standard vanilla buttercream recipe!
This cake is perfect for summer, and my boss and his family really enjoyed it!

Lemon Layer Cake
2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
* I added 1 tablespoon of vanilla (because who doesn’t like vanilla in their cake!?)
* I also added 2 tblsp. lemon zest!

* I actually had to make this twice in order to have two round cake pans worth. Maybe it is just me…because the picture I adapted this recipe from sure as heck displayed a “layered cake”; but as I poured the batter, it only filled one pan.
So maybe if you prefer, simply double the recipe…or make it twice like be safe…maybe you will have more batter than I had for the first round!

1. Preheat oven to 375. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line bottoms of each with rounds of wax or parchment paper. Butter paper and dust pans with flour, knocking out excess.
2. To make cake, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. (and lemon zest-optional).  In a separate bowl stir together milk and lemon juice (mixture will curdle and that's a good thing.)..also add vanilla extract here-optional!
3. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour, mixing at low speed until just combined.
4. Divide batter between pans, smoothing tops. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes, then invert onto racks, remove paper, and cool completely.

Strawberry Vanilla Buttercream
1 cup butter, softened
1 tbl. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
5-8 cups powdered sugar
1 cup of fresh strawberries, chopped

Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with strawberries, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Granola continued...

After I shipped off my fathers care package of treats to him on Friday, I realized I still need to think of something to make for the father’s day celebration I would be attending out here on the west coast…for Tyler’s father.
Since I had just gathered an abundance of granola bar recipes-crunchy, soft, not so crunchy or not so chewy…I had granola on the mind.
I also recalled to myself that every time we house sit for his parents there is a plethora of granola and bran cereals in their pantry.

*light bulb moment!* - well of course! Make Jeff granola cereal, made by yours truly!

 As with the bars you can get very creative here. There are no strict rules. It is your cereal so add what you would like to the oats!
For Jeff, I used- chopped pecans, almonds, and dried cranberries!

So sweet and simple! Once the granola has completely cooled, store in an airtight container or plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will keep for several weeks. Makes up to 5 cups! 

Homemade Granola Recipe:
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
¾ cup sliced or slivered almonds
½ cup- 1 cup chopped pecans
¼ cup wheat germ-optional
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil or 2 tbls. unsalted butter; melted
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 cup dried fruits (cranberries, cherries, apricots, and/or raisins)-optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Either butter or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl combine the rolled oats, nuts, wheat germ, ground cinnamon, and salt.
In a small bowl, stir together the oil (or melted butter), and maple syrup. Pour mixture over the dry ingredients and toss together, making sure all the dry ingredients are coated with the liquid.
Spread onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 30-45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally so the mixture browns evenly. (The browner the granola becomes without burning-the crunchier the granola will be).

Place on a wire rack to cool. You will notice that the granola may still be sticky when it is removed from the oven but it will become crisp and dry as it cools.
Make sure to break up any large clumps of the granola while the mixture is still warm.
Once the granola has cooled add the dried fruits.
Again, once the granola has cooled, store in an airtight container or plastic bag!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day!!!

As I grow older I realized I have become that nagging daughter that father’s dread. I don’t feel that I have always been this way; just more so as I approach 30.

I mean I will be honest I am the only child so I am sure I have been a handful throughout the years, or whined about other concerns or materialistic items..but I have never been so naggy about my parents being healthy until recently.
At times I am sure it is annoying...but it is out of LOVE!..and isn’t that my job as the daughter? : )

Anyway as you already know from my mother’s day entry, I live very far away from my parents; so as with mother’s day I thought it best to bake something for my dad and ship it, for Father’s Day!
For him I decided I wanted to make him something for breakfast. I notice when I am home that he often grabs a couple of cups of coffee and then jets off to work, leaving him very hungry by 11am for lunch. I really believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and sets the tone for your eating habits for the remainder of the day.
Therefore I decided to make him a hearty and healthy breakfast treat: Homemade Granola Bars!

Since I didn’t know which he would prefer, I made both chewy and crunchy …plus he could have a variety to last him for about 2 weeks!

I hope you enjoy them daddy! Miss you and love you lots! Xoxo

I adapted the crunchy granola bar recipe from the Joy of Baking site. (click for recipe)
I did not use the sunflower or pumpkin seeds as directed. Instead I decided to go with all the scraps of nuts and chips I already had in my pantry.
* which brings in another great reason to bake granola bars..1. They are healthy, 2. You can get rid of left over add-ins you have available in your pantry! (baking and cleaning house..all in one!)
So I followed this recipe using the following add-ins:
½ c. dried cranberries, ¼ c. white chocolate chips, 1 c. sliced almonds, ¼ c. raisins, ½ c. milk chocolate chips, plus ½ cup wheat germ!


For the soft chewy granola bars I used a recipe from the site Kitchen Stewardship.
I had a lot of batter left over after placing as much as I could in my pan. Therefore I took a trick I learned from a mommy and me site. Instead of baking her granola in a large pan, she had her kids place the batter in lined muffin tins, pressing the mixture down with your hands or a spoon:
This recipe is quite simple:
4 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour or spelt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter, softened*
1 cup honey
Add-ins-1/2 cup walnuts; ½ cup milk chocolate chips
Lightly butter a 9×13-inch pan.  In a large mixing bowl combine butter and honey first:
Then add all ingredients except add-ins.  Beat hard until combined.  Stir in add-ins.  Press mixture into pan — really jam it in there so your bars don’t fall apart.  (You can use your hands!)  Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into bars.  Let bars cool completely in pan before removing and serving.